Friday closures of Portsmouth’s central library could be reversed

U-TURN? Portsmouth Central Library
U-TURN? Portsmouth Central Library

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PORTSMOUTH’S main library could start to open on Fridays again – but at the cost of librarians losing their jobs.

The Central Library has been closed on Fridays as a cost-saving measure as the council struggles to balance the books.

Now city leaders are looking at bringing in new technology which allows people to use machines to check out the books they borrow, cutting down on the need for staff.

The Radio Frequency Identification Data (RFID) machines will be installed in all the city’s nine libraries.

It could mean Central Library will open all week and other libraries may stay open as late as 10pm.

But the plans, which will see eight librarians lose their jobs, have been criticised by the public sector workers’ union, Unison.

The council is spending just over £400,000 on the equipment, and hopes it will save almost £118,000 a year.

Cllr Lee Hunt, the council’s leader for culture, said: ‘It’s like the self-service points at Tescos, which are quick and easy for shoppers. And the savings will help us reverse library closures, and keep some open later into the evenings.

‘In future I’ll look at opening them to 10pm, as they are in some other cities. There’s no set date for it yet, but libraries are important and should be open when people are able to visit them.’

The first machines will be installed at Copnor’s Alderman Lacey library in autumn.

Portsmouth’s Unison branch leader Lindsay Williams, said: ‘This will see hard-working library staff trained to use the machines, then train others, then wait to see which of them loses their job. They are dedicated people, who will be a loss to the city’s library service.’